UK civil service chief under pressure over new lockdown party claims – POLITICO

LONDON – With doomsday looming for Boris Johnson, the UK’s civil service chief faces a nightmare of his own after details emerge of an alleged rule-breaking third party in his ministry.

Johnson is prepared for the results of an investigation by senior government employee Sue Gray into a series of allegations that Downing Street and Whitehall employees broke lockdown rules to hold social gatherings.

She will examine two Downing Street concerts last April on the eve of the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, for which No. 10 apologized on Friday to Buckingham Palace.

This investigation is now also expected to address the disclosure that a departure party will be held at the Cabinet Office on December 17, 2020 by Kate Joseph, the former head of the government unit responsible for setting up COVID restrictions.

Joseph said in a statement Posted on Twitter She was “really sorry”.

The Telegraph reported that a source familiar with the incident said Civil Service Chief Simon Kiss had been invited to Joseph’s party. The Cabinet Office said “categorically” he did not attend.

Case was originally tasked with investigating Downing Street parties but stepped down last month after reports of social gatherings to break the lockdown in his administration. Civil service officials claimed he attended drinks outside his office in Whitehall in December 2020, as first reported by Politico and The Independent – allegations the Cabinet office has categorically denied.

Separately, The Times reported that Case attended another birthday party at his department later in December 2020. The Cabinet Office acknowledged conducting a hypothetical test but said the Cabinet Secretary “played no part in the event”.

Third-party news in the Cabinet Office raises new questions about Case’s role in implementing any changes or penalties against civil servants arising from the Gray report.

As Cabinet Secretary, Case is Gray’s chief and the ultimate arbiter of discipline in the civil service.

A former Conservative minister said the issue should be “you might have thought to be singularly responsible for exercising a moral compass” and shutting down parties, but “he himself didn’t seem to realize it for what it was.”

Whitehall employees who spoke to Politico and The Independent earlier this week expressed concerns about Case’s impartiality, with one saying the Cabinet Secretary would actually be “certifying his homework”.

Gray was expected to give her report early next week, but she is now facing a delay as new allegations pile up.


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